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Design review: First Hill ‘Living Building’ will climb 21 stories and be constructed like LEGO, piece by piece

CollinsWoerman’s designs for 901 Madison

Madison Street’s next contribution to Seattle’s ultra-green Living Building program could be a 21-story apartment tower set to rise in unique fashion on First Hill. The development takes its first bow in front of the East Design Review Board Wednesday night.

Plans for the 901 Madison project detail a more than 170-unit building — around 45 of those units will be affordable using two housing programs, MFTE and Mandatory Housing Affordability — with new street level retail, and, yes, even though it will be super green, underground parking for 40 vehicles.

Developers Sustainable Living Innovations and architect CollinsWoerman plan to make use of the city’s Living Building incentive program that will allow two additional floors of height in exchange for meeting ecologically friendly building standards. The two floors, by the way, would boost the total units in the building by about 12%

The building is planned to generate 105% of the power it uses through a mixture of wastewater heat recovery (using the heat from hot water that goes down the drain), efficient heat pumps, and solar panels. They are also exploring the idea of using wastewater heat from nearby buildings.

Design review: 901 Madison

Madison is no stranger to green building. The ultra-green Bullitt Center is a few blocks up the road at Madison and 15th.

But it has never seen a building like 901 Madison before. CHS first wrote about the project late last year. Sustainable Living Innovations is planning to use “modular” construction that will speed up the process and make the tower more economically feasible. The building will be constructed in sections in a factory in Tacoma, then shipped to the site and slotted into place like a LEGO set. This style of building helps reduce waste, and can ensure insulation is properly fitted, the developers say.

The building could end up the second high-rise of its kind in Seattle, after the developer’s 303 Battery, which is slated to begin construction in December 2019.

The developers say the construction technique can make erecting taller buildings on small lots economically viable across the city.

Community feedback, meanwhile, has focused on “maintaining a quality frontage along 9th Ave and “a desire to reduce the amount of large blank surfaces on the street levels,” the designers write.

“Overall comments shared a desire for more retail or eateries that are tailored to the diverse community that works in the neighborhood. Suggestions included a desire for an eatery which catered to the Healthcare workers, but also would be open late enough for the residents of the neighborhood.”

Details like solar arrays will probably also come up at some point in the process.

While construction is still a long time off, the land on the corner of 9th Ave and Madison is currently home to the Quarter LoungeGeorge’s Delicatessen, and the now-empty former home of Lotus Asian Kitchen.

The developers say they are working with the existing tenants and talking with the First Hill Improvement Association to find the best fit for retail in the area for the corner across the street from neighborhood icons Vito’s and The Sorrento Hotel.


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4 thoughts on “Design review: First Hill ‘Living Building’ will climb 21 stories and be constructed like LEGO, piece by piece

    • Don’t be silly….. underground is the perfect place for it.

      1) underground spaces are not qualified for habitation, so there will be no living spaces displaced by parking.

      2) a building that size is unlikely to not *need* to have fairly deep foundation/pilings dug for it to keep it structurally sound, so even if you believe the myth that a building with no parking will somehow have cheaper apartments, it’s not like the builder can save money by setting the building down on a slab without much digging. – in other words they have to dig the hole *anyway* it would be stupid to not put some parking down there.

  1. YES! to at least some parking. Otherwise, the vehicles which some residents will own will be parked on the street, making parking availability for everyone else even more difficult than it already is.

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